British Troops Dying for Nothing; Britain Less Safe

July 12th, 2007 - by admin

David Morrison / Labour & Trade Un ion Review – 2007-07-12 22:42:43

The Brown Inheritance:
British Troops Dying for Nothing, Britain Less Safe

LONDON (28 June 2007) — On the early morning of 29 June 2007, Gordon Brown’s premiership was marked with two abortive car bombs in London. A few hours later, his newly appointed Home Secretary, Jacqui Smith, addressed journalists outside 10 Downing Street, and said:

“The Government, the police and the security services are doing everything possible to protect the public.” [1]

That is a lie. The Government is not doing everything possible to protect the British public. Until British forces are withdrawn from Iraq and Afghanistan, the Government cannot possibly say that it is doing everything possible to protect the British public.

After all, no less a person than former Prime Minister Blair stated recently that invading and occupying Afghanistan and Iraq had produced what he called “blowback” in the form of “global terrorism”. He made this remark in his resignation speech in his Sedgefield constituency on 10 May 2007 [2], when he said:

Removing Saddam and his sons from power, as with removing the Taliban, was over with relative ease.

“But the blowback since, from global terrorism and those elements that support it, has been fierce and unrelenting and costly.”

Iraq has exacerbated the threat to Britain, says JIC
In saying that, Blair was merely repeating what the British intelligence services have been saying for years, for example, in a Joint Intelligence Committee (JIC) assessment drawn up in March 2005, entitled International Terrorism: Impact of Iraq. Extracts of this were published in The Sunday Times on 2 April 2006 [3]. Amongst its conclusions were:

“Iraq is likely to be an important motivating factor for some time to come in the radicalisation of British Muslims and for those extremists who view attacks against the UK as legitimate.”

“We judge that the conflict in Iraq has exacerbated the threat from international terrorism and will continue to have an impact in the long term. It has reinforced the determination of terrorists who were already committed to attacking the West and motivated others who were not.”

“Some jihadists who leave Iraq will play leading roles in recruiting and organising terrorist networks, sharing their skills and possibly conducting attacks. It is inevitable that some will come to the UK.”

In October 2001, there was no threat to Britain from the Muslim world. Last November, according to the then head of MI5, Dame Eliza Manningham-Buller, there were in Britain

“some 200 groupings or networks, totalling over 1600 identified individuals (and there will be many we don’t know) who are actively engaged in plotting, or facilitating, terrorist acts here and overseas”. [4]

In October 2001, there were none.

The crowning achievement of Blair’s premiership is that, by engaging in military action against Afghanistan and Iraq, he has provoked a threat to Britain from the Muslim world – and, in the process, caused the deaths of around 200 British soldiers, and hundreds of thousands of Afghans and Iraqis (see my pamphlet The Blair legacy: Hundreds of thousands dead, Britain less safe [5]).

Britain a less safe place?
It is a tribute to the hopelessness of British politics, and of British journalism, that during Blair’s premiership he was never challenged publicly about this extraordinary achievement. For a brief moment on 22 June 2007, when Martha Kearney and other BBC journalists interviewed the Prime Minister designate on Newsnight, I thought that the next Prime Minister was not going to get off so lightly. Martha Kearney dared to ask Gordon Brown re British intervention in Iraq:

“Do you think it’s made Britain a less safe place?”

Not surprisingly, he didn’t answer the question, and she didn’t insist on a reply. But she then asked him if he agreed with the JIC analysis that

“Iraq is likely to be an important motivating factor for some time to come in the radicalisation of British Muslims and for those extremists who view attacks against the UK as legitimate.”

Again, he didn’t answer the question, but gibbered on about “winning the hearts and minds” of British Muslims – and she didn’t insist on an answer. What is the point of asking questions if you don’t insist on answers?

Brown said on the morning after the abortive car bombs were discovered that “the first duty of the government is the security of the people” [1]. While he continues to engage in military intervention in the Muslim world, then he isn’t fulfilling “the first duty of government” – and he is getting British servicemen killed to no purpose as well.

Dying in vain?
It was fitting that, at the start of his last Prime Minister’s Questions, on 27 June 2007 [6], Blair had, yet again, to go through the empty ritual of expressing condolences to the family and friends of servicemen killed in Iraq and Afghanistan in the previous week. After all, their deaths are part of his legacy.

Blair went on to praise “our armed forces” in general, saying:

“I have never come across people of such sustained dedication, courage and commitment. I am truly sorry about the dangers that they face today in Iraq and Afghanistan. I know that some may think that they face these dangers in vain. I do not, and I never will.”

It is worth pointing out that, as far as Iraq is concerned, the Prime Minister is at odds with the head of “our armed forces”, Sir Richard Dannatt, in his view that they do not “face these dangers in vain”. In an interview with Sarah Sands of the Daily Mail, published on 13 October 2006, he stated forcefully that we should

“get ourselves out [of Iraq] sometime soon because our presence exacerbates the security problems” [7].

Could there be a clearer statement that British troops are dying for nothing in Iraq?

It has been obvious for a couple of years that British troops are making no difference on the ground in southern Iraq, that the various Shia elements that control the area would be in control whether British troops are there or not. British troops are merely providing targets, being mortared and rocketed in camp and risking being blown up by IEDs outside camp.

But, in a sense, Blair is right when he says they are not dying in vain. There is no military rationale for the continued presence of British troops in southern Iraq – General Dannatt has made that clear. But there is a political rationale – our relationship with the US would be damaged if we deserted it in its hour of need. In other words, British troops in Iraq are dying for the Anglo-American alliance. A corollary of this is that, as long as US troops remain in Iraq, it’s unlikely that British troops will be withdrawn completely.

Their presence has, and will continue to have, the limited political purpose of acting as a symbol that we are standing by the US in Iraq. On 21 February 2007, Blair announced that their numbers were to be reduced by around 2,000 to 5,000 by the end of the summer (see BBC report [8]). This was at a time when the US military was under great strain to deploy an extra 30,000 troops in Baghdad, a strategy endorsed by Blair as crucial to the future of the mission in Iraq.

Military rationale dictated that British troops that were no longer necessary around Basra be redeployed to Baghdad to assist their American brothers in arms (and some eyebrows were raised in the US that they weren’t). But British domestic considerations dictated otherwise. Remember the furore generated in Britain when a battalion of the Black Watch was deployed in support of the second US assault on Fallujah in November 2004 and suffered casualties, including 5 killed. A repetition of that, with the prospect of many more casualties in Baghdad, would have made even the necessary symbolic British presence difficult for the Government.

British troops are also dying for nothing in Afghanistan. Like the invasion of Iraq in 2003, the deployment of British troops to Afghanistan in the spring of 2006 was justified on a false prospectus. It was presented as a 3-year peace keeping mission in which there would be few casualties, as an extension to the south of Afghanistan of the ISAF mission that began in Kabul in late 2001 and was later extended to the north and west of Afghanistan.

The then Defence Secretary, John Reid, constantly said that British troops would not be engaged in offensive operations: for example, he told the House of Commons on 27 February 2006 that “our troops are not there to seek out and destroy the terrorists” [9]. Launching the mission in Kabul on 23 April 2006, he famously told a press conference in Kabul:

“We would be perfectly happy to leave in three years time without firing a shot because our job is to protect the reconstruction.” [10]

A year and a bit later, British troops have fired hundreds of thousands of shots and 56 of them are dead. And the recently appointed British ambassador to Kabul, Sir Sherard Cowper-Coles, told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme on 20 June 2007:

“The task of standing up a government of Afghanistan that is sustainable is going to take a very long time. … We are going to win this, but it’s going to take time. It’s a marathon rather than a sprint – we should be thinking in terms of decades.” [11].

So, a mission that was supposed to take 3 years has, a year and a bit later, been extended to “decades”. Or until the 12th of never, perhaps. Meanwhile, British troops die for nothing.

Out to destroy our way of life?
In his last Prime Minister’s Questions, Blair continued his tribute to “our armed forces” by saying:

“I believe that they are fighting for the security of this country and the wider world against people who would destroy our way of life.”

Like it or like it not, their fighting in Afghanistan and Iraq has undermined the security of this country, has provoked a threat to this country that didn’t exist in October 2001. Thanks to Blair, and his paymaster Brown, over 200 British servicemen have died to make Britain less secure.

It was fitting that, at his last Prime Minister’s Questions, Blair should trot out the hoary old chestnut that al-Qaida and associated groups are out to “destroy our way of life”. They don’t like us voting or reading The Guardian?. Or is it binge-drinking, they object to?

The plain truth is that al-Qaida is not concerned with changing Western society. Its objective is to change Western, and particularly US, foreign policy towards the Muslim world. That is why it attacks the US and states allied to the US in pursuing this policy – and has yet to attack Sweden.

This is crystal clear from the many public statements by bin Laden and his associates (see, for example, my article The London bombings: Britain’s blood price [12]). He is concerned with American foreign policy towards, and American actions in, the Muslim world – with US support for Israel in its ongoing theft of Arab land; US support for corrupt and repressive regimes in the Muslim world (Egypt, Jordan, Saudi Arabia and the Gulf states); and so on. Post 9/11, the US has added to an already long list of Muslim grievances by occupying Afghanistan and Iraq.

Michael Scheuer worked for the CIA for 22 years and was the first head of its al-Qaida desk, serving in this capacity for two years. While still working for the CIA, he wrote a book entitled Imperial Hubris: Why the West is losing the War on Terror, which was published in 2004. His view of al-Qaida, as summarised in this book, is as follows:

“… the greatest danger for Americans confronting the radical Islamist threat is to believe – at the urging of US leaders – that Muslims attack us for what we are and what we think rather than for what we do.

“Rhetorical political blustering ‘informs’ the public that Islamists are offended by the Western world’s democratic freedoms, civil liberties, intermingling of genders, and separation of church and state. However, although aspects of the modern world may offend conservative Muslims, no Islamist leader has, for example, fomented jihad in order to destroy participatory democracy, the national association of credit unions, or coed universities. …

“Al-Qaida’s public statements condemn America’s protection of corrupt Muslim regimes, unqualified support for Israel, the occupation of Iraq and Afghanistan, and a further litany of real-world grievances. Bin Laden’s supporters thus identify their problem and believe its solution lies in war.

“[Scheuer] contends they will go to any length, not to destroy our secular, democratic way of life, but to deter what they view as specific attacks on their lands, their communities and their religion. Unless US leaders recognize this fact and adjust their policies abroad accordingly, even moderate Muslims will be radicalized into supporting bin Laden’s anti-Western offensive.”

It would be too much to hope that our new Prime Minister would read that and act upon it.